Welcome to the “People of Pillars: A Portrait Gallery.” Every weekday in December, we will be sharing a portrait of an individual or individuals receiving services from Pillars as clients, tenants, or program participants. This gallery is an opportunity for the community to learn more about what the reality of homelessness is in the Fox Valley from those with lived experience.
It is important to note that all of the individuals featured in this gallery participated voluntarily and are willingly sharing their stories with you; however, their names have been changed to protect their privacy. Any statements, views, and opinions shared by these individuals are their own and are not endorsed by Pillars in any way. Conversations with these individuals were captured on Tuesday, November 2, 2022. Additional follow-up information about their journey to housing may be added separately as needed to bring their story up-to-date.
This is Charlie*. Charlie has been utilizing services at Pillars for almost two decades, during which he's been in and out of shelter and most recently living outside with stops at Pillars Resource Center. “I came to Pillars back in 2005. I was married once and it lasted for a long time. I was common law married again. My wife passed away at a really young age. She was 32. I just gassed off. I went to Minnesota for awhile, I met a friend who said, ‘You should come to Wisconsin.’ So, I came to Wisconsin. No family, nobody. I’ve been in the military, but that’s not how I did my traveling. I was a hippie at one time, so I traveled around with the hippies as you can say. […] I’m 65, and a lot of the time in summertime, I don’t want to waste my time in shelter just sitting there. Being 65, I might have 30 years left to live if that. I like being outside. I have a wild imagination. Right now, I’m staying a little bit here and there. […] I want to own a house. I don’t need a $500,000 home or anything, but something that you can call just your own. It doesn’t have to have all of the latest stuff, because I like putting my own ideas. I have a wild imagination. I don’t like to be congested, but I like a lot of people. I do a lot of walking. I walk all the way to the mall, turn around and walk right back. I want a car so bad. I figure it’s better for my health. […] I get creative. You should have seen me yesterday grabbing white styrofoam. The wind was blowing me around. I went to this other place, and they had the wood that have refrigerator boxes on them. So, I went into this alley, and I lined them up on one side, lined them up on the other side and put the two styrofoams on top. I put the rest of the wood on the bottom. I put cardboard on the bottom. Then I had a box that went like that. That was one side of the wall. A lot of times, I can’t sleep, because I’m by myself, and I don’t know what’s happening. I’m up all night. I do like the outdoors, but most of the time at night, I’ve got to stay up, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.” (Photo Credit: Adam Hilbelink, November 2, 2022) Since speaking with Charlie on November 2, he found a new place to call home through Pillars Supportive Housing. He is living in an apartment with two of his children and receiving regular case management. *The name of the client in this post has been changed to protect his privacy.